MSG Facts vs. Fiction Explained in Recent News Reports

MSG glutamate umami facts.jpg

Science Friday, a nonprofit organization and trusted source for news about science, reports that there is no basis for claims that MSG may cause allergies. And a new study finds that umami flavor in the form of MSG promotes feelings of fullness, helping to satisfy appetite and potentially help with...

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New Video and Infographic Explain Why MSG is Perfectly Safe


According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), monosodium glutamate (MSG) has suffered from inaccurate consumer perceptions for too long - so the non-profit organization has decided to put the consumer myths about MSG to rest. In a new video released in August 2014, ACS corrects the myths about ...

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Glutamate Is Natural

Glutamate Is Natural

Glutamate is common throughout nature. It is a component of your body and your foods. The taste-imparting property of glutamate has long been used around the world to enhance the palatability of foods.

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MSG Safe Use

MSG Safe Use

Over one hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University discovered the taste that is now recognized internationally as “umami.” It has been established for more than 10 years now that umami, which is the taste imparted by monosodium glutamate (MSG), stands alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter as one of the five recognized basic tastes.

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Glutamate & Taste

umami savory protein foods.jpgA team of scientists in the US have recently discovered a unique mechanism by which certain molecules can drastically enhance the umami flavor - the savory taste often associated with protein-rich foods such as meat, cheese and seafood. Other research has been conducted recently investigating the impact of umami flavor on appetite and subsequent satiety.

Molecular mechanism for the umami taste synergism

Feng Zhang, Boris Klebansky, Richard M. Fine, Hong Xu, Alexey Pronin, Haitian Liu, Catherine Tachdjian and Xiaodong Li

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (52), 20930-20934.

Umami is one of the 5 basic taste qualities. The umami taste of L-glutamate can be drastically enhanced by 5' ribonucleotides and the synergy is a hallmark of this taste quality. The umami taste receptor is a heteromeric complex of 2 class C G-protein-coupled receptors, T1R1 and T1R3. Here we elucidate the molecular mechanism of the synergy using chimeric T1R receptors, site-directed mutagenesis, and molecular modeling. We propose a cooperative ligand-binding model involving the Venus flytrap domain of T1R1, where L-glutamate binds close to the hinge region, and 5' ribonucleotides bind to an adjacent site close to the opening of the flytrap to further stabilize the closed conformation. This unique mechanism may apply to other class C G-protein-coupled receptors.

Recent advances in the understanding of the biology of taste have found that distinct cell receptors are tuned to detect each of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. These receptor cells function as dedicated sensors, helping us to recognise and distinguish key dietary components.

The receptors and cells for mammalian taste

Jayaram Chandrashekar, Mark A. Hoon, Nicholas J. P. Ryba and Charles S. Zuker

Nature.444, 288-294 (16 November 2006).

The emerging picture of taste coding at the periphery is one of elegant simplicity. Contrary to what was generally believed, it is now clear that distinct cell types expressing unique receptors are tuned to detect each of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Importantly, receptor cells for each taste quality function as dedicated sensors wired to elicit stereotypic responses.

Impact of MSG together with IMP (Inosine 5'-monophosphate) on food flavor, appetite and subsequent satiety:

Umami flavor enhances appetite but also increases satiety

Impact of MSG together with IMP on food flavor, appetite and subsequent satiety

Masic U, Yeomans MR. Am J Clin Nutr 100; 532-538 (2014) School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK

What this study adds: Protein is recognized as more satiating than carbohydrate and fat. What this study shows, is that in a carbohydrate and protein-rich soup, MSG and IMP further reduces the intake of a subsequent test lunch. This means that MSG/IMP promotes the satiation of a high energy high-protein meal.

Why this is important for us: This is the first time that researchers show a two-phase effect for MSG and IMP in a high energy high protein soup. First, umami flavor stimulated hunger because the soup with umami has a higher palatability, but after, the same umami flavor induces a lower intake of the subsequent test lunch. Moreover, it seems as IMP amplifies the umami signal and induces a more robust satiety than MSG alone in the presence of protein.

Next topics to evaluate: The study observed MSG satiating effects 45 min after the intake of the soup. This suggests that the effect of MSG and IMP occurs at the early stages of digestion probably by signaling umami receptors in the gut. And although it is not certain yet how MSG and IMP have satiating effects, they may encourage slower transit of food through the stomach or what is called gastric emptying like protein does.

To access the published study: